2017-04-10 values

Values-Based Grantmaking: Why It Matters

PEAK Grantmaking continually advocates for the adoption of effective practices in the philanthropic sector. According to a survey of our members and others in philanthropy, we found that, while many believe that grantmaking process and structure very much (65%) or moderately (25%) affect the ultimate success of grants, many grantmakers (41%) believe that assessing and changing how grants are made isn’t a priority. One way PEAK Grantmaking is seeking to encourage members to analyze their practices is by engaging them in conversations on whether their practices reflect the values that are explicit or implicit to their organizations.

The Necessity of Values

PEAK Grantmaking believes that all organizations have a set of values, whether they are written out and shared with the world or kept internally within the organization. Others may have an implicit set of values only expressed through their practices. Some foundations may use different labels such as organizational beliefs or priorities, but regardless of what they are called, an organization’s practices are the most, and sometimes only, visible expression of their values. This is why it’s so critical to make sure there’s alignment between the two.

Examples of values can include a dedication to diversity, innovation, or gathering and sharing of knowledge with others in the field. One common value we’ve found is a commitment to ensuring grantseekers have enough time and resources to reach their program goals.  However, according to the Center for Effective Philanthropy’s (CEP) Grantee Perception Survey data, time spent on application and reporting requirements increased between 2007 and 2015. Grantmakers who value the time and resources of their grantees could better live that value by making sure their reporting requirements and systems ensure a less cumbersome process to better align the value to the practice.

From a survey supported by PEAK Grantmaking, when asked how their foundation “walks the talk” in aligning their values with their practices, one respondent noted that in order to meet their values regarding equity and inclusion, program staff participate in workshops and trainings specific to these topics. Another respondent stated that they make information regarding their grants, financial statements, and policies public and make themselves available to potential applicants and grantees in order to live up to their values of openness and transparency.

Call to Action

PEAK Grantmaking has been working with the Consensus Building Institute (CBI) and an advisory council made up of members and partners to identify common values held in the field and practices that are most frequently associated with them.  Through this work we hope to get the sector talking about what barriers exist for aligning values and practices. We’ve found this conversation fascinating and as we uncover more findings from this work we think it’ll be fertile ground for further exploration and lead to meaningful results for our members and the sector.

Outlook

The next stage of this work is to take it out on the road. You may have joined us for our session at the 2017 Annual Conference, “Connecting Practices to Values-Based Grantmaking.” If not, we’ll be visiting several PEAK Grantmaking Regional Chapter meetings throughout the year and present findings through webinars and sessions at partner organization events. We’re hoping our work will lead you to look introspectively within your organization to examine your own foundation’s values connection to your practices.

Help us keep the conversation going. Do you have stories of foundation values that are or are not aligned with funding practices, and the impact that has on the grantmaking process? Tell us in the comments below, or email us at stories@peakgrantmaking.org. We promise anonymity.

Victor Gongora

Victor Gongora is Effective Practices Project Manager at PEAK Grantmaking. Find him on Twitter @PEAK_Victor.